Tharavadu, Leeds

Tharavadu had been brought to my attention some time ago, but it took their recent success in winning Best Indian Restaurant for three years on the bounce at the Oliver Awards run by our sister paper the Yorkshire Evening Post to remind me of the fact.

The first thing that hit me walking into the Keralan restaurant, a spit away from the station in Leeds, is just how crazy busy it was; the energy of the place slapped me in the face, and I will admit, for a moment it fazed me. It took some wriggling to get past the queue anxiously hoping to bag the next empty table to confirm our reservation. Here, they advise when booking for a weekend to call several weeks in advance but this was a Thursday, and there wasn’t a seat in the house.

Kerala is a slender coastal strip of south-western India and boasts a cuisine built on rice, fish and all things good. The food of this beautiful part of the subcontinent was also subject of a Rick Stein series which no doubt has ramped up tourism and a fondness for their food. Is this why this place is so rammed, I wondered.

We were a bit disappointed when they palmed us off with what was clearly the last chance table, close to the washing-up area and the bathrooms. But, to give them their due (and they had no idea I was reviewing) after a quick word we moved as soon as a table became available and they couldn’t have been nicer about it.

 For me, negotiating an unfamiliar menu is great fun as I love to figure out what’s what. This one was well written, and though the names of dishes are long and complicated, the descriptions are charmingly written with enough explanation yet leaving a little guesswork as well. There are snacks and nibbles with delightful names like pappada vada and pakkavada. A supremely healthy, spicy prawn soup of chemmeen rasam, so good a soup it features in ayurvedic medicine; I could go on, but we finally settled, after relentless mind changing, for three separate dishes, knowing full well we would be ordering too much food.

A chilli paneer was so good I am desperate to get hold of the recipe. Dahi battata poori was a pretty dish of pieces of unleavened bread stuffed with potato and soaked in yoghurt which we all but fought over. And a Karnavar Masala Dosa  CONTINUE READING 

Dinner for two with three glasses of wine and Kulfi dessert, £73.75. Tharavadu, 7-8, Mill Hill, Leeds , LS 15DQ. 0113 244 0500, tharavadurestaurants.com. Open: Monday to Thursday, 12-2pm & 6-10pm, Friday to Saturday, 12–2pm & 5-10.30pm. Closed Sunday.

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